Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

I thought I would send a quick happy new year to my dear readers with a little New Year's Eve treat!

Blood Orange And Pomegranate
Champagne Cocktail

Pomegranate Juice
Freshly squeezed blood orange juice
Simple syrup (1 part sugar plus 1 part water-cook until
the sugar dissolves and chill until ready to serve)
Champagne (although I like Prosecco)

In a champagne glass slowly pour the champagne till about half up the glass.  Add a splash of the simple syrup, then the pomegranate and blood orange juice.


Bacon Wrapped Stuffed Jalapenos

10-12 medium sized jalapenos split
down the middle and seeds removed
1 8oz package cream cheese at room temperature
3/4 cup shredded cheese (I used a sharp white cheddar, but a jack or Manchego would be yummy)
1/4 cup diced green onion
6 strips of bacon, split in half
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch of pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a small bowl combine the cream cheese, shredded cheese, green onions and salt and pepper.  Stuff each pepper with about 1 tablespoon of the cheese mixture.  Wrap each pepper in one half strip of bacon.  Place wrapped peppers on a cookie sheet and bake for about 20 minutes or until the bacon looks cooked through.

Happy New Year everyone!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Luxurious Holiday

So in my previous post I just so mentioned that I would dedicate the next couple posts to foods that amp up the indulgence factor before we all take our new year's vow of calorie celibacy.  So I will make good on my promise and send you another fat-tastic recipe, in memorial to this holiday season which seems to have ended in a heartbeat. 

Now this recipe I actually made on Christmas Eve, completely violating the rule of no red meat on that particular devout Roman Catholic Italian grandmother would kill me if she knew.  My excuse for this violation is very simple.  We always have dinner at my mother's on Christmas Day, so I always feel compelled to make something very nice for my hubby and little one on Christmas Eve, since I don't get to cook on Christmas Day.  So for the past few years I have been playing with what I want to traditionally serve on Christmas Eve and this year I decided to go with a little bit of an ignored dish in our family's repertoire (this is more economical that anything), beef tenderloin.  I chose beef tenderloin for really one main reason.....ease, and since beef tenderloin typically has a very short cooking time I knew I would therefore have plenty of time to actually relax and watch "It's A Wonderful Life" on my Christmas Eve.  Unfortunately I made the grave mistake last year to do a turkey, while trying to wrap all my Christmas presents, finish the dessert to take to my mother's the next day, and "help" Santa set up all the goodies for my little girl.  Needless to say I was able to watch midnight mass from the Vatican in total and finish it off with a little "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation."............three hours of sleep later.
So this year I wanted to spare myself this agony and wanted something easy, and surprisingly this dish was just that,  however I still found myself up till three o'clock in the morning wrapping Christmas presents.....I really need to do something about that.  Anyway, I decided to serve it with yummy horseradish cream, au gratin potatoes (a future blog recipe I think) and a nice salad, and I have to say it was worth the enormous price tag I paid for it.  It got me thinking that if next year I have conscience and decide to go with fish for Christmas Eve, this would make a great New Year's Eve dish, finished off with a yummy Champagne cocktail!

On a side note I would like to thank all my readers (the few of you there are) and wish you all a very happy and safe New Year!  I hope all of you continue with me on this blogging journey in the new year!  Buon appetito to you all, and happy cooking!

Mushroom And Herb Stuffed Beef Tenderloin

Cook Time: 1-1/2 hours

8oz Crimini mushrooms
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1/2 cup crushed crostini (you could substitute with fresh bread crumbs)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 2-1/2-3lb beef tenderloin butterflied (the butcher can do this for you)
kitchen twine
1/4 cup chopped peppercorns ( I do this in an old coffee grinder)
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic paste (to do this simply take one clove of garlic
and sprinkle with a little salt and smash with a knife blade or you can you a mortar and pestle)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup melted butter

Horseradish Cream:
1/4 cup sour cream
4 tablespoons horseradish
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3 tablespoons fresh chives chopped

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  For the filling place the mushrooms and garlic in a food processor.  Process until minced.  Meanwhile melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Add the mushroom and garlic mixture and cook until tender, about 5 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Place breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, and herbs in a small bowl, toss to combine.  Add the mushrooms to the breadcrumb mixture and mix well, set aside as you prepare the beef. 

To prepare beef in a small bowl combine the peppercorns and salt.  Lay beef flat on work surface, and spoon stuffing down the center of the tenderloin, leaving about a 1/2 inch gap at each end.  Roll the tenderloin up and with the seal facing down secure the tenderloin with the kitchen twine, trussing the tenderloin in six spots to evenly secure the meat so the filling doesn't spill out. 

Once the meat is trussed rub the roast with the garlic paste then press the peppercorn/salt mixture all over the beef, forming a bit of a crust.  Heat the olive oil in a medium roasting pan or large cast iron skillet over medium high heat.  When the olive oil starts to smoke place the roast in the pan and sear on a sides, trying to evenly brown the meat.  Drizzle the melted butter over the meat.

Place the roast in the oven and cook until it reaches an inner temperature of about 135-140 degrees, which is medium rare.  If you prefer rare cook until you reach an inner temperature of 125-130 degrees.  Remove the roast from the oven and place on your cutting surface.  Allow the meat to rest for about 10 minutes before you slice it.  To slice the beef, remove the kitchen twine and slice the roast in 2-inch thick slices.  Serve with the horseradish cream.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Fish In A Pocket

I am very ashamed to say that I have been a very bad blogger and have not written anything in a long while.  But after my little Christmas break I thought I would post a few recipes of indulgence, since it is still the holiday season until the end of this week.  So I would say that definitely calls for a little indulgence until we all vow to live a calorie restricted life in the next year.

This post actually focuses on something that for the most part isn't usually considered indulgent (at least on the calorie scale)  However, it is amazing, and disturbing, how easily I was able to transform something that typically is associated with something completely healthy and turn it into something.....well....less healthy (isn't it amazing what puff pastry does to a person).  The inspiration for this recipe was very simple..beurre blanc.  For anyone who is not familiar with this wonderful creation it is quite simply a white wine and vinegar reduction emulsified with butter until it turns into this creamy, yummy, butt enlarging sauce that just happens to be AMAZING with fish.  Another culinary triumph for the French. 

I have to say that I might have had a little "Julie and Julia" moment thinking about this tasty number, and I knew right then and there that I had to create a calorie excessive recipe focusing on this little sauce.  Now even though this sauce is rich enough in its own right I found myself thinking how I could top its indulgence factor even more, and I figured what the hell, why not top it off with puff's Christmas right?  So what I ended up with was a heavenly, Macy's day float inducing, button busting dish....but I have to say a bit of a heart attack in a dinner.  So you might ask why, why make something so rich that makes your thighs grow like a Chia pet?  Because decadence is worth it, in small intervals anyway........and besides, it's the holidays.  I know....excuses, excuses.

Puff Pastry Wrapped Cod With
Sauteed Spinach, Mushrooms
And Beurre Blanc

Note: The Beurre Blanc is a recipe adapted from Julia Child's book Mastering The Art Of French Cooking, With Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle

Cook Time: 1 hour

1 package puff pastry (2 sheets)
1-1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1lb fresh cod cut into four chunks
1lb fresh baby spinach
8oz shitake mushrooms sliced
2 cloves garlic minced
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 egg beaten
1 tablespoon cold water

Beurre Blanc:
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 white wine vinegar
1-1/2 cup butter cut into chunks
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
4 tablespoons chopped chives
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a medium saucepan combine the vinegar and white wine.  Cook on medium heat until the white wine and vinegar are reduced to about 2 tablespoons, about 10 minutes.  Reduce the heat to low and add the butter, one piece at a time, whisking constantly until all the butter is added and there is a thick sauce.  Whisk in the chives, lemon juice, zest, and salt and pepper.  Set aside.

In a large skillet heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the garlic and cook until softened, about 2 minutes.  Add the spinach and cook until just wilted, about 3 minutes.  Once wilted set the spinach aside and add the butter.  After the butter has melted add the mushrooms and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, and cook until tender, about 5 minutes.

Set the mushrooms aside and add the remaining olive oil.  Increase the heat to medium high.  Season the fish with the remaining salt and pepper.  Sear the fish on both sides and set aside.

On a well floured surface roll out one sheet of puff pastry into an 11-inch by 11-inch square.  Cut the puff pastry into four equal squares.  Spoon four equal portions of spinach into each square followed by four equal portions of the mushrooms.  Top the mushrooms with a piece of fish.  In a small bowl combine the beaten egg and water to make an egg wash.  Brush the edges of each pastry square with the egg wash. 

Roll out the second square of puff pastry in the same way.  Cut the four squares and place them over the fish.  Seal the edges with a well floured fork and place on a parchment or silicone-lined baking sheet.  Brush the top of each pocket with the egg wash and bake the fish pockets until the pastry is browned and puffed up, about 15 minutes.  Slice the pockets in half diagonally and serve with the beurre blanc.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Little Cookie For Christmas

It has definitely been a bit of a hectic week, and Christmas this year has not disappointed when it comes to stress.  This time of year I have to say for me is a double edged sword, since I do LOVE Christmas but hate all the stress and preparation for Christmas.  My husband likes to say that I can be a bit of a Grinch, but when I get all my present buying, cooking, and mailing done I think I am just as Christmasy as anyone.  This whirlwind of activity, especially since I am a bit of a procrastinator, has caused me to loose track of other things going on in my life. 

Case in point, last night, when I finally had a chance to sit down for five seconds I realized that I had not posted ANYTHING this week (bad, bad, blogger).  Needless to say, I panicked a little, and thank goodness I had this cookie recipe on the back burner (one of the only signs of organization in my life).  The inspiration for this little cookie actually came from fruitcake, which I am not a fan of (I don't think I am alone with this one).  But there is something great about some of the flavors of fruit cake, and I wanted to use some of those flavors on a little bit of a more simplistic level, a.k.a no weird, strange looking, boozy fruit.  I also wanted to utilize one of my favorite yummy things, pistachios, which always make me think of Christmas.  But unfortunately the thought of pistachios diverted me, and all I could think of was baklava (YUMM).  Now I found myself drifting from the fruitcake theme to a baklava theme.  So in an attempt to remain focused on my original idea, these cookies ended up being a mishmash of fruitcake, baklava, and a sugar cookie, and therefore to me, very representative of my crazy life as I know it right now.  So this cookie recipe might sound strange but judging by how fast my husband's co-workers ate them I think they were good.  Here's to a crazy Christmas!

Honey, Cranberry and Pistachio Cookies

Cook Time: 1 hour

3/4 pistachios
3/4 dried cranberries
2/3 cup flaked sweetened coconut
2 tablespoons orange zest
1-1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
1/2 cup honey
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier (optional)

2-1/2 cups flour
2/3 cup sugar
1-1/4 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 tablespoon orange zest
4oz melted white chocolate

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large food processor chop the pistachios and cranberries until finely chopped.  Add the remaining ingredients and process until thoroughly combined.  Set aside while you prepare the dough. 

In a medium bowl sift together the flour and the salt and set aside.  In a large separate bowl the mix the sugar and butter until combined.  Add the egg yolk, vanilla, and zest and mix.  Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and mix until just combined.  Gather the dough together and flatten into a disk.  Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and place on a well floured surface.  Divide the disk into four portions.  Roll each portion out into a 10-inch long and 8-inch wide rectangle, or until the dough is about 1/4 of an inch thick.  If the dough cracks just moisten your fingertips with a little water to seal it.  Spoon a long line of filling down the center of each rectangle, leaving about a half an inch on each end.  Roll the dough up around the filling, making sure the finished roll is seam side down.  Trim the ends at an angle and then slice the roll in one inch slices with a well floured knife. 

Place each slice on parchment lined cookie sheets.  Cook the cookies for about 10 minutes or until they are slightly browned on the edges.  Remove from the oven and let the cookies sit on the cookie sheet for about 5 minutes.  Then place cookies on rack and cool completely.

Once the cookies are cool, drizzle with the melted white chocolate.  When the chocolate sets they are ready to serve!  Store in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Recipe That Needs Very Little Commentary

Sometimes you have a recipe that is soooo good words just fail to adequately describe its perfection.  This recipe is definitely one of  those. 

This recipe came to me through my love affair with Panettone, which is an Italian bread originally from Milan that you typically get right around Christmas.  Panettone is best described as an egg bread similar to Challah or Brioche but sweeter, and is dotted with delicious candied orange peel and raisins.  I love just eating it with a bit of butter alongside a cup of coffee in the morning, but it also makes a delicious french toast.  This time however I decided to turn my beloved Panettone into bread pudding, which is one of my most cherished desserts.  So if you haven't guessed already this Panettone transformation was ridiculously delicious, and since I am at a loss for words this post is very short, because......well.....the food speaks for itself.  Now fortunately I have to go out and buy another loaf of Panettone......another reason to love Christmas.

Panettone Bread Pudding

1 16oz loaf of Panettone cubed
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk
3 eggs
1/2 cup maple syrup
1-1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
Zest of 1 orange
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons melted butter
2 tablespoons turbinado sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a 2-1/2 quart baking dish and set aside.  Place the cubed Panettone in a large bowl and set aside.

In a medium bowl combine the heavy cream, milk, eggs, vanilla bean paste, sugar, maple syrup, cinnamon and orange peel.  Whisk to combine.  Pour half of the cream mixture over the bread and stir to combine.  Let stand for about 5 minutes.

Pour bread mixture into prepared baking dish and pour remaining cream mixture over bread.  Drizzle the melted butter over the top and sprinkle with the turbinado sugar. 

Bake until the pudding is set, pulling away from the edges, and is golden brown on top, about 45 minutes.  Remove from the oven and serve warm with a drizzle of cream.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Chili To Warm The Soul

Winter can sometimes be a little bit of a culinary dry spell.  There's usually not a great variety of fresh veggies and fruit, and grilling tends to get a little problematic.....although it can be done, believe me, I know.  That being said, winter does bring out the best in soups, stews, braised meats and all those soul warming dishes that we all love that at other times of the year just aren't applicable. 

So in the spirit of these culinary treats I decided to tackle a little bit of a revision of one of my family's favorites, chili.  The chili that I am used to having usually involves ground beef, beans and some typical Mexican inspired seasonings, such as cumin, coriander, and chili powder.  Now while this version is delicious, I wanted to change it a bit, and try to infuse some fresher flavors that to me bring to memories of sunnier and warmer days.
This chili overhaul initially began as a means to use up a heaping pile of dried Pasilla chilies that were left over when I attempted (I use this term loosely) to make my own salsa.  For weeks every time I would pull out the crazy drawer in my kitchen (this drawer is actually the equivalent to the island for misfit toys) which is a mess of a drawer filled with half used containers of nuts, dried fruits, rice, pasta, and of course Pasilla chilies, I would remind myself to use them for something, to get them out of my life for good (along with every other half opened container of food junk I have). 
But of course I would forget, until I discovered a box of cornbread mix( I know, a terrible...but it is good, I swear) that my husband loves in another cupboard and for some reason chili came to mind and the Pasilla's now had a purpose.  I have to say that this recipe in particular felt like a science experiment, there was a lot of chopping and blending and stirring, and I even mixed in a little grilling just to make things extra festive!  In the end I wound up with...well...chili, just a little bit more jazzed up than before.  And the bonus?  Once less misfit in my crazy drawer.  Where's my margarita!

Three Bean Chili With Grilled Flank Steak
And Cilantro Cream

Pasilla paste:
6oz of dried Pasilla (Ancho) chilies
3 garlic cloves
1 lime zested and juiced
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup cilantro
1/2 cup water

1 2lb flank steak
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 cup Pasilla paste

4 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions chopped
3 bell peppers chopped (yellow, orange and red)
2 28oz cans diced tomatoes
3 cloves garlic minced
1 cup beer (I like to use a good IPA)
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons coriander
1 teaspoon ground pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 16oz can pinto beans
1 16oz can black beans
1 16oz can kidney beans
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 lime juiced
Remaining Pasilla paste

Chipotle Cream:
8oz creme fraiche
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup cilantro
1 jalapeno roughly chopped
1 small shallot roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup heavy cream

For the Pasilla paste place the dried Pasilla in a small stock pot and cover with water.  Boil the Pasilla's over medium high heat until they are softened, about 10 minutes.  Drain the peppers and rinse in cold water.  Remove the stems and place in a blender with the remaining ingredients.  Blend the ingredients until smooth and set aside.

For the steak rub the spices on each side of the meat, then rub the Pasilla paste on both sides.  Refrigerate and allow the meat to marinate for about 30 minutes.

While the steak is marinating heat olive oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the onions, peppers, and garlic.  Cook vegetables until tender, about 8 minutes.  Add the tomatoes, the remaining Pasilla pepper paste, beer, and the spices and simmer until the chili is reduced, thickened, and the flavors combine, about 25 minutes. 

Meanwhile, for the cilantro cream place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.  Set aside.
Drain and wash the beans and add to the chili, cook an additional 10 minutes or until the beans are heated through.  To finish the chili add the chopped cilantro and fresh lime.  Remove the steak from the refrigerator and grill until medium rare, about 5 minutes on each side.  Place steak on a cutting board and allow to rest for about 10 minutes.  Thinly slice the steak against the grain and place on top of the chili.  Garnish with the cilantro cream, fresh chopped cilantro, and some grated cheese (I like a good smoked Gouda) and you're ready for a margarita in December......although a good winter beer would be excellent!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Minty Little Truffle

A few posts back I tested the waters of truffle making and made pumpkin truffles, and my dear husband yet again served as my test subject.  Now he usually gives me a one or two word response (maximum of three) when it comes to my cooking, and it is usually something like this..."it's good," or "I like it." 

But when I made those truffles I got an actual suggestion, "ooh, you should do a peppermint truffle next."  Now since he actually exceeded his three word maximum I had to do it, and he even gave me suggestions on how to create these tasty little treats to boot....a budding chef in the making.......maybe I am rubbing off on him, scary.  Sometimes I really think I bite off more that I can chew because I was not in any way prepared for the horror that would come to me when making these stupid things.
Now you're probably asking yourself how could there be horror when chocolate is involved?  We'll there can be, and I can honestly tell you that chocolate seizing on you is horrific, especially when it is midnight and you are trying to finish these #$%!%&* truffles for a potluck the next day and you have had three bags (not one but three) of white chocolate seize on you.  You then find yourself running to the store in the middle of the night, make-up smeared, hair a mess, covered in chocolate, asking yourself in your car why the damn chocolate won't melt properly and telling yourself that if this last bag you are about to buy doesn't melt then you are just going to chuck it all and never lay your eyes on a truffle again!  I will warn you ahead of time that due to this set of unfortunate events I didn't take as many photographs as I should have, hard to work a camera when your sobbing over grainy white chocolate that refuses to melt.
Nonetheless I did get the last bag to melt.....well sort of.....and learned a little about melting white chocolate in the process.  So once again I used my husband's test subject skills and had him taste my minty little truffles and he said "they're good."  Success measured in two words or less.

Peppermint Truffles

Estimated Cook Time: 4 hours

8.5oz dark chocolate (I like Valrhona) chopped
1 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon pure peppermint extract
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
(you can use peppermint oil as well, but use much less)
16oz white chocolate finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
1/2 cup crushed peppermint candy

In a small sauce pan over medium heat bring the heavy cream to a simmer.  Add the vanilla and peppermint extract.  Place dark chocolate in a large glass bowl and pour the hot cream over.  Let stand for 2-3 minutes.  Stir the chocolate and cream mixture until smooth.  Stir in the butter until completely melted and incorporated into the chocolate and refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours. 

Once firm, using a small melon baller, scoop small portions of the truffle mixture out, using the palms of your hands if you have to to form nice balls of chocolate.  Once you have formed all your truffles place them back in the refrigerator for an hour until they are firm. 

For the white chocolate place the chocolate in a double boiler set over medium heat.  If you don't have a double boiler you can use a metal heat resistant bowl fitted over a saucepan with simmering water.  Add the peppermint extract before the chocolate is melted.  Do not allow the water to get too hot, this will burn the chocolate.  Actually the best way to heat the chocolate is to bring the water to a simmer and remove from the heat and melt the chocolate off the heat.  Also, don't use a wooden or plastic spoon to stir the chocolate, since both can contain moisture which can cause the chocolate to seize up (seizing is when water is introduced to the chocolate causing it to become more solid and grainy....not good).  Instead always use a metal spoon, especially when stirring white chocolate. 

Once the chocolate is melted remove from the heat and allow to cool.  Now you can go to the trouble to temper the chocolate but I just didn't have the energy to do it.  However, if you fancy tempering the chocolate, David Lebovitz does a great job explaining how to do it here.  Once the chocolate is cooled, using a fork, dip the dark chocolate balls in the melted white chocolate and place them on a foil lined tray.  Immediately after dipping sprinkle each truffle with the crushed peppermint candy.  Place the truffles back in the refrigerator and chill until set, about another hour.  Remove truffles from refrigerator about a half hour before serving.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Going Dutch For Breakfast

Me and my family are big fans of breakfast, and I have to say that breakfast is a staple for dinner in our household (refer back to my breakfast burritos post).  Now for breakfast I traffic in the usual suspects....eggs, bacon, hash browns, pancakes, get the picture. 

This time however I wanted to try something a little different (shocker), and wouldn't you know it once again fate delivered my inspiration for this post.  The story is that I was looking on the web for recipes that featured Panettone, which is an Italian bread that is usually served around Christmas, and amongst the list of websites featuring Panettone a curious word flickered across the screen, Pannekoek (pah-nuh-cook).  I had never heard of this dish, so of course I was curious.  In summary Pannekoek is a dutch pancake, which can be either savory or sweet and are made with WAY more eggs that your traditional pancake.  I think they taste kinda like a thick crepe, which of course makes them delicious, and when you bake them they puff up into this impressive mass, and then rapidly deflate when taken out of the oven, like a giant sigh after a tough day.  So after serious deliberation I decided to do a sweet variety of Pannekoek and when my husband asked what I was making for dinner and I replied "Pannekoek" he gave me a look like I had gone to the loony bin.  Although I have to say that the look he gave me after he tasted it was a little different.  A dutch breakfast for dinner is awfully tasty!

Baked Pear Pannekoek With
Pear Brandy Maple Syrup

Estimated Cook Time: 45 minutes

1/2 cup butter melted
1 cup flour
1 cup milk
4 eggs
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 tablespoon orange zest
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 medium Bartlett pears peeled and sliced
1/4 cup powdered sugar


1-1/2 cups grade A pure maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
1/4 cup pear brandy

Preheat oven to 400 degrees (204 degrees Celsius).  In a large bowl combine the flour, milk, eggs, vanilla, 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon, orange zest and granulated sugar.  Beat batter until most of the lumps are gone.  Pour the melted butter in a 14 inch non-stick skillet and pour the batter over the butter. 

Arrange the sliced pears in the batter and sprinkle the brown sugar and remaining 1 teaspoon cinnamon over the pears.  Place the skillet in the middle of the preheated oven and bake until the pancake is very puffed up and the batter is set, about 30-35 minutes. 

While the pancake is cooking combine the syrup, cinnamon, orange zest and brandy in a small saucepan and heat over medium low heat just until the flavors combine.  Set the syrup aside.  When the pancake is ready remove from the oven and light dust the pancake with the powdered sugar.  Slice the pancake and serve with the brandied syrup........of course a side of sausages doesn't hurt!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Christmas In A Loaf

I have to say that lately I have been a little lazy when it comes to posting.  So feeling extremely guilty I knew I had to post something and quick.  So I madly flipped through my maze of post-its, spare envelopes, and old shopping receipts that had what at times looked like Chinese inscriptions instead of recipes. 

I mistakenly had thought I had found my candidate last night and gave it a whirl.....whoa, that was post for last night.  Now I was back to the drawing board, trying another recipe I had scribbled on another random piece of paper (organization.....not my strong suit) in the hopes of redeeming myself.  Now obviously this recipe worked out since I am posting it tonight, but it was a very close call.  The process of constructing this recipe unfortunately involved a three year old licking and/or stealing every utensil and measuring cup used to make this, along with some serious spillage in the oven and subsequently a small mushroom cloud of smoke.  However, seemingly clinging to my sanity after going through this trying set of events (not to mention my husband watching television at the highest decibel.....I swear he's going deaf) I was able to pull myself together, put my three year old in the bath tub, and finish this recipe. 
Now you might be saying to yourself , "get to the point lady, what did you make?"  So to answer this question, I knew that I wanted to do a gingerbread recipe, but I didn't want to do another rock hard gingerbread cookie.  I liked the idea of a soft gingerbread loaf, with lots of yummy cream cheese frosting on top.  A very nice addition to my morning coffee.  So although chaos ensued, I was able to put together a pretty darn good gingerbread loaf, and after the mushroom cloud settled all you could smell in the house was the smell of Christmas.....and that's how redemption is done.

Gingerbread Loaf

Estimated Cooking Time: 1 Hour

1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1/8 cup honey
1/8 cup molasses
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup applesauce
2 eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons orange zest

8oz cream cheese at room temperature
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon orange zest

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter and flour a 9 inch by 5 inch loaf pan.  In a medium bowl combine the flour, spices, salt, and baking soda.  Whisk the dry ingredients to remove any clumps and set aside.  In a large bowl whip the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add the honey and molasses, mix well to combine.  Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well between each egg.  Add the vanilla and orange zest and mix. 
To the butter mixture add half of the dry ingredients, mix until just combined.  Add the buttermilk and mix again.  Add the applesauce, mix, then add the remaining half of the dry ingredients.  Mix until well combined.  Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake the gingerbread until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with moist crumbs, about 40-50 minutes. 
When the gingerbread is done baking remove from the oven and place on a rack and cool for about 15 minutes, then invert and remove the loaf from the pan.  Cool the loaf until slightly warm.  Wrap the loaf in plastic wrap and cool completely.  For the frosting, mix all the ingredients in a medium bowl until smooth.  Unwrap the cooled loaf and frost away.